Monday, May 21, 2012

Have You Ever Experienced a Post Race Day Bonk?

(Not that kind of bonk!)

It's certainly happened to me. I've trained for months to run a triathlon or a plain road race, kicked my own butt on race day, only to find the next bunch of weeks (and at least once or twice - months) I take it far easier than someone committed to healthy living ought to.

I'm betting it'll happen to a few folks in my office too as this past Saturday just shy of 40 clients from my office ran in the now 6th annual Dr. Freedhoff Try-a-Tri Challenge (thanks Somersault!). For many, it was the their first triathlon. For some it was their first ever race.

I'd be willing to wager that at least one person from the race is going to see me in my office in the next few weeks inexplicably struggling with their healthy living behaviours - not just with fitness, but with food too - and all consequent to a post-race bonk.

Healthy living? It's a marathon. An ultra-marathon. A never-ending ultra-marathon.

Sure it's alright, in fact it's downright human, to relax here and there, perhaps especially after a major job well done.

But if you really want to finish this race remember consistency is key,and quickly getting back to your pre-race day lives is something you might want to strive for.

If you're really stuck?

You can always sign up for another race.

Congratulations to everyone for a really wonderful day!

Have you ever had a post race day bonk? How long did yours last?

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  1. Dustin LindenSmith7:27 am

    I've just been experiencing something like this, but not specifically related to a race day, just after hitting a particular weight loss milestone and also having had some great high points in recent exercise routines.

    My psychologist has suggested (I think correctly) that I felt myself deserving of a reward after so much successful hard work and effort, and that since for most of my life rewards been food-related, that I naturally gravitate towards food-related rewards now, as counterintuitive as that may be.

    She encouraged me to consider what some really great non-food-related rewards might be for myself and to indulge in those at moments like these. She also reminded me that this isn't a path that really ever ends, and that there's no "finish line" per se, after which we can finally relax and eat like we used to. This way of healthy living and eating must become the new normal on a permanent basis, with treats being just that -- treats, and only occasional.

    Sometimes we all need a bit of a reality check about that stuff. I feel pretty good about it now, though. Most importantly, I seem to have lost that "all or nothing" mindset that had me keep bingeing the day after and the day after that, because "since I'd already blown my healthy eating plan, what's the point of going back to it today." That kind of wrong-headed thinking gets me nowhere but heavier, fast. :)

    Thanks for this post. On the nose, as usual.

  2. After completing my first half marathon two years ago, I took an entire week off of exercise, calling it my "recovery time". That would be unheard of today. I just ran my fourth half marathon, and I am only taking one rest day and then it's back to the routine! I do think this bonk phenomenon gets better the longer you are living a healthier lifestyle. At least for me, the longer I have done it the more I have realized that I don't want a week of recovery time, and I don't want to eat a bunch of crap (most of the time), since I feel better doing what I am doing.

  3. Also, forgot to add, I think you are right on target with avoiding this issue by signing up for another race, although I have found that any new goal will do. I am focusing now on a certain 10K time, so that will keep me going and pushing myself after the most recent race. I have one friend who just keeps signing up for more half marathons, with the idea being if she is always training for one she won't stop running.

  4. For me, it's been a good strategy to never run more than a 5K, and for this reason. People close to their natural weight can afford to have peaks and valleys in their exercise and eating regimens. Natural homeostasis will keep their weight stable while they return to their routine. Those of us who are maintaining radical losses, however, and defying our natural homeostatic weight, have to protect ourselves from a Yoni Bonk, or it can trigger a two-pound ratchet upwards. Such consistency makes it harder to keep the spice in a health regimen, but it's not impossible.

  5. Most marathoners I know personally enough to have insight into their post race behaviors deliberately celebrate in the immediate aftermath [hotel, big gooey treats they'd not order otherwise, massages] with complete respect for the pendulum swing and no desire at all to fight it. Marathons are extreme behavior...if you want daily consistency you hunker down in first gear to make things as easy and automated as possible. Low demand/low pendulum swing...high demand/high swing.

  6. MairiGraves, RD12:30 pm

    What a timely article! I just completed my first half marathon on May 6th. I trained for a 2:10 but finished in 1:58, which was stellar. I have never physically pushed myself that hard in my life. I was pretty sore after with a minor injury so I decided to take a week off. But one week has turned into two! I have done some walking and light jogging in this time but this is a dramatic decrease from running hard 3-5x per week. Last night I gave my head a shake and decided to get it together. I am getting back to my regular routine starting today after breakfast. So, as mentioned above this is a very timely article. Thanks Dr Freedhoff.

  7. I did a 1/2 ironman and was so burned out that I really didn't get back into regular training for at least 6+ months. I've seen it said that you should sign up for your next race before finishing the current one. Might not be bad advice.

  8. Yes! Except not with racing. After my last kickboxing tournament in December (in which I finally won), combined with Christmas, I definitely found myself not training as hard as I used to for a couple months! Definitely need to sign up for another tournament to get back into shape!

  9. Anonymous8:09 am

    This has been a tough year for me. I got off the couch in 2001 and started doing short triathlons and walking or cycling events nothing more than a couple of hours, then I did a half marathon and last year I decided to walk a marathon. I wasn't ready. Every year I ended the season injured. Buy I didn't learn. I just thought I needed to work harder like the others . So last year I over trained for the Ottawa Marathon. I walked Around the Bay in Hamilton in March (30km) and pushed too hard rather than sticking to a training pace (among other tactical training errors). Despite the injury(ies) I came away with - including an extremely painful right leg (from hip to toe) - I continued to push through to do the Marathon at the end of May. Next week end will be the anniversary of my first marathon and I am still recovering from it.

    I have been on an emotional and physical roller coaster for most of this recovery year but I have learned a lot about what I have done wrong, about how hard it is to pin point the source of an injury when you just ignore something and plough through and injure other things as a result, about how difficult it is for a reformed couch potato to be relegated to the couch because of injury. (I never thought I would find inactivity difficult.) I have difficulty understanding that this happened because I was trying to keep up with the fit people I have surrounded myself with in my quest for fitness. I missed the part where walking for hours is not the only thing that gets you through a marathon. You also need to be strong, you need to build your fitness, you need good nutrition habits - these are the things that will protect your body.

    A few weeks ago I sent my Personal trainer yet another email telling him I quit. Enough is enough - I am tired of the pain; things are getting better but what's the point. I'm done. His reply was motivational enough for me to get back in the gym and somehow there was a turning point as I started to actually feel stronger than I can ever remember feeling, I notice my posture is better, I can run for the bus more easily, I can do more yard work ... Life is getting easier than it used to be.

    Then I saw this post yesterday and eveything fell into place. I wrote this email to my trainer:

    "This is what I need to understand isn't it? If I understand this then their will be no more exasperated "I quit" emails!

    'Healthy living? It's a marathon. An ultra-marathon. A never-ending ultra-marathon.'

    I think I am figuring out that it is a way to live forever not a project with a beginning and an end. Which makes perfect sense. I think I got screwed up by starting out training for events instead of for life. So I got into the habit of training in chuncks of time. Since this time last year I have not had a planned event so there is no end date and I think my brain needs a reset so that it stops looking for one. It's weird people keep asking me what I am training for. I tell them nothing - I am still in rehab - this morning I read that blog post and it hit me - my aha moment - I am training for life and that is the most important event of all.

    Deep thoughts for a holiday Monday! Sitting on my front step sipping coffee in the shade enjoying the breeze ... Life is good Matt, life is worthy of my training efforts!"

    Thank you Yoni for this post which finally made me realize that it doesn't matter if I ever do another triathlon or marathon that's not why I need to continue on my fitness quest - those are just fun ways to see where I am at or to put training in perspective for those who inevitably ask me what I am training for. I am not sure they would understand if I said I was training for the never-ending ultra-marathon of healthy living; but I do now and suddenly the stress of "when am I going to be ready for my next event" has dissappeared - like magic!

    1. Thank YOU for the very thoughtful and heartfelt comment. Good luck with your ongoing recovery!

  10. I'm just coming off a two-marathons-in-six-months training cycle and I'm feeling exactly the way you describe. Marathons (6) and even Ironman triathlon (3) (not to mention countless shorter distance races) are not foreign to me, but something about this past training cycle really got me down and I've had a hard time getting my exercise and healthy eating mojo back. I'm not just physically tired, I'm mentally tired. It's tough to be "on point" All. The. Time.
    There was a time when I could manage my weight through increasing my activity level and just being mindful of what I ate. But now, my body is just so used to my activity level that the only way I can maintain my weight (let alone lose the last 10-15 pounds) is to be hyper-vigilant about every single thing I put in my mouth.
    I get a lot of pleasure from eating (the entire process from cooking to sharing a meal with friends), so it kills me that I can't just eat what I want when I want for fear of re-gaining the 80 pounds I've lost over the last 15 years.
    I know that these final pounds are merely vanity pounds - they'll make me look better, but really won't make me any healthier than I already am (though they will make me faster). And I exercise/train/race for the love of it and the social aspect, not for the weight-loss benefits.
    I've recently "quit" putting pressure on myself to be a certain weight and instead will simply work on mindful, thoughtful eating, whatever weight I end up being.

    1. Anonymous11:02 am

      "I've recently "quit" putting pressure on myself to be a certain weight and instead will simply work on mindful, thoughtful eating, whatever weight I end up being"

      I have had a lot of success since I embraced that exact concept. It was the same sort of mind set that finally allowed me to quit smoking. Once I gave myself permission to smoke any time I wanted to I found I just didn't want to. Humans are strange and wonderful beings we all have different roads to success the trick is to find the right raod and to properly identify success.

      For me the road to healthy living is to not stress about food choices - the less I stress about good and bad choices, the better choices I make. I can eat whatever I want - I choose to eat what makes me feel good - physically and mentally.

      My definition of success is to be strong and healthy whatever size I am. This is often more of a mental than a physical challenge because there is so much pressure to be thin. But overall I am happier since I stopped hating my body on a daily basis. Maybe someday I will make the complete switch and love my body - I've got time to adapt to that.

  11. Anonymous9:17 am

    My post race Bonk was 5 and a half Months! I just paid for another marathon to get myself back to training mentality!!! 20 extra pounds makes running HARD!!!

  12. Anonymous12:50 pm

    our team won gold at a national ball hockey competition last summer...and I'm still celebrating...:S